Siedlicki’s coaching tour takes interesting twist

Johnstown native Siedlecki, who just completed his 11th season as the head coach at Yale, is one of
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The road map of Jack Siedlecki’s college football coaching career already has pins stuck in Albany, Staten Island, Easton, Pa.; Worcester, Mass.; Amherst, Mass.; and New Haven, Conn.

His next stop is the Middle East.

Siedlecki, who just completed his 11th season as the head coach at Yale, is one of five Division I coaches who will be touring military bases next week. Also making the trip will be Charlie Weis of Notre Dame, Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, Randy Shannon of Miami and Mark Richt of Georgia.

The trip was organized by Armed Forces Entertainment, and is the first of its kind for NCAA football. In addition to meeting with members of the military and holding symposiums, the coaches will also coach flag-football games at the bases.

“The group approached me about three months ago,” said Siedlecki, a 1969 graduate of Johnstown High School and a 1974 graduate of Union College, where he earned letters as both a running back and a linebacker during his senior year. “I feel it is a real honor to be chosen, and I will probably get more inspiration from our soldiers than they can possibly get from me.”

Siedlecki already has some history with two of the other coaches involved in the tour, which begins Tuesday and runs through May 26. Siedlecki and Richt were on the American Football Coaches Association rules committee for three years, and one of Siedlecki’s former players, Patrick Graham, is on Weis’ staff.

The tour will begin in Ramstein, Germany, where the group will tour the military hospital where injured soldiers from Irag and Afganistan are shipped. From there, the tour will visit military bases in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

“The purpose of the tour is to boost morale,” said Siedlecki, who was inducted into the Johnstown High School Hall of Fame last October. “College football is as American as it gets. I think the interaction will be terrific.”

Except for a brief stint with Electronic Data Systems after his graduation from Union, Siedlecki’s entire life had centered around football.

When his father, John, was coaching at Johnstown High School, Jack was the ball boy. He began his high school career at Johnstown as a quarterback, but moved to running back during his senior year and helped the Sir Bills compile an undefeated season.

He went to Union out of high school, but transferred and spend a year at Miami of Ohio before returning to Schenectady. His finest day at Union came in 1972, when he rushed for three touchdowns in a 38-21 victory over rival Renssleaer Polytechnic Institute.

Siedlecki’s coaching career began while he was still in college, as he coached the Glove Cities Colonials semi-pro football team in 1973. Ironically, one of the Colonials’ players, Joe Sawyer, was one of Siedlecki’s coaches at Union at the time.

Siedlecki began his college coaching career in 1976, when he left Electronic Data Systems to become an assistant coach under Bob Ford at the University at Albany.

After assistant positions at Wagner and LaFayette, where he roomed with current Harvard coach Tim Murphy, Siedlecki began what has become a series of reclamation projects when he became the head coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988.

UNDEFEATED SEASON

Siedlecki led the Engineers to their only undefeated season in 1990, and was named AFCA District I Coach of the Year in 1992.

The next season, he took over at Amherst College, which was coming off a two-year, 1-14-1 skid. Four years later, the Lord Jeffs were the Little Three champs, and Siedlecki was again AFCA District I Coach of the Year.

He replaced the legendary Carmen Cozza at Yale in 1997, and went 1-9 during his first season. Two seasons later, the Bulldogs were 9-1, Ivy League champs, and Siedlecki was the New England Coach of the Year.

Last year, the Bulldogs were 9-0 before losing to Harvard in the final game of the season, and were ranked as high as 21st.

In 20 years as a head coach, Siedlecki has compiled a 120-63-2 record.

As much as he’ll be talking about football next week, he’ll be trying to send another message.

“I really think the purpose in the trip is to let the troops know they are greatly appreciated at home,” he said. “and perhaps for a few minutes, get their minds off the every-day tension they have to live with.

“Personally, this will be a lifetime experience, Many of the people we are going to see will be my childrens’ age.

“ I think it will be very difficult to see the injured, and realize the hardships that they will have to face.

“I am not from a military family, so I expect to come back with a real appreciation and different perspective on what our men and women in uniform are doing.”

Morale Entertainment, in conjunction with Armed Forces Entertainment, is helping promote the tour. A television concept for the tour is being developed, but broadcast details haven’t been finalized.

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